'It's about people that know the craft': Tom Robinson on The Ivors awards

'It's about people that know the craft': Tom Robinson on The Ivors awards

Songwriter and BBC 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson was on hand to reveal this year’s nominees at the launch event for The Ivors earlier this week.

Robinson announced the contenders alongside Fiona Bevan, who’s co-written with Tom Walker and Lewis Capaldi. The nominees include Ghetts, Jorja Smith, Idles, Arctic Monkeys, Daniel Pemberton, Let’s Eat Grandma and George Ezra.

Now in their 64th year, The Ivors celebrate excellence in British and Irish songwriting and composing across categories for songs, albums, film, TV and video game scores. Here, Robinson explains why the long-running songwriting awards ceremony still matters…

Why are The Ivors such an important awards ceremony for the songwriting community?

“The main thing about the Ivors is that it’s peer to peer, so it’s songwriters recognising songwriters, composers recognising composers. So it isn’t to do with hype, sales, reputation or big business muscle. It’s about people that actually know the same craft judging it on its own merits. It’s always what comes out the speakers, it’s never reputation.”

People seem to have fun at The Ivors too…

“I’ve been to quite a lot of awards ceremonies over the years and The Ivors has always been my favourite. Because it takes place in the afternoon, people don’t have the same mindset as when it’s an evening bash and people are just there to get drunk. People are very respectful to the other artists, so once they receive their award they don’t start chattering at their table. They still pay attention and applaud the other artists. The key thing is that it’s not televised, so people aren’t showing off for the cameras, it’s just for the people there in the room. That makes everybody relaxed, so even when you get the likes of Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder up there on stage, they are just being themselves and wise-cracking, it’s such good fun.”

Any favourite memories of The Ivors over the years?

“I remember as Smokey Robinson was walking to get to the stage, Phill Jupitus leapt to his feet and just turned to him and said, ‘Mr Robinson, thank you’. The other memory was of Stevie Wonder. Of all the people who ever received an Ivor that I’ve seen, he was the most outstanding. He just told stories and it felt like he was among friends. Just as he was telling these stories, a drunk shouted ‘Sing’. With good grace, Stevie made up a song on the spot about being at The Ivors that day and sang it a cappella. It was so emotional. His gift as an artist is that he can really reach beyond words and music into your heart. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, everyone leapt to their feet, it was amazing. That’s true artistry.”

Stevie Wonder made up a song on the spot about being at The Ivors

Tom Robinson

As well as attracting the big international artists, is it important that the event is focused on UK songwriters?

“The Ivors was started, I think, because there were so many American songwriters dominating the British sheet music charts at the time, and the airplay and sales of records. The Ivors has grown together with the British music industry. Our main job is to recognise creative talent within these islands. But at the same time you’ve got to acknowledge the inspiration that we’ve drawn from across the Atlantic. So it’s lovely to have both.”

What do you think about the range of nominees, from grime acts like Ghetts to TV and film composers such as Daniel Pemberton?

“In the last five years, we’ve seen a sea change at The Ivors as we’ve really moved into the 21st century. Nowadays, when you see the people presenting the awards, receiving the awards and being nominated for the awards, it’s a real reflection of the actual music scene that’s out there and the society that we’re living in. So I’m really thrilled to see The Ivors moving in such strides now.”

The Ivors Academy’s had a rebrand recently. What do you think are the big campaigning issues?

“I’m hugely grateful to The Ivors, or BASCA as it then was, for getting behind the Save 6 Music campaign in 2010. I was working at 6 Music and it made such a difference to all of us in the music industry that there was that outlet. Bless them, BASCA got right behind that campaign. If we can carry on protecting creators’ rights and making clear that intellectual property is intellectual property, that’s the huge battleground that’s still to be fought against the multi-national, digital giants.”

They have also campaigned to support Late Junction, which Radio 3 is cutting back to one show a week…

“I’m totally behind the Save Late Junction [campaign]. Obviously as a BBC presenter, I can’t overtly support the campaign on air. But I totally do off air!”

Click here to revisit last year's action-packed Ivors ceremony.

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